A Course in Life 101: Learning to Lighten Up and De-Stress

A Course in Life 101: Learning to Lighten Up and De-Stress

"Lighten up" is a popular phrase and for good reason. We're all becoming too serious. When was the last time you had a really good laugh? When was the last time you laughed at yourself?

Most of us have a tendency to take ourselves much too seriously. We fret over everything we do as if we're supposed to be perfect in whatever we attempt. So many of us put ourselves down at the slightest imperfection. We say things like, "I'm so stupid. How did I ever get so dense," or, "I'm a dummy, I'll never learn that."

People who live very long lives, such as those over 100 years old, all seem to share a healthy sense of humor. A sense of humor about oneself and the world in general is one of the keys to aging successfully and has been documented in numerous studies.


Laughter is being used to effectively help treat serious illnesses and is even becoming part of the workplace as we realize the importance of taking ourselves more lightly.

The fact that one of the most sought after seminar topics on the speaking circuit is "Humor in the Workplace" attests to our need to learn to put more humor in our lives.

How about you? Can you look at a situation and see the humor in it? I'm not trying to diminish those issues that are genuinely serious and need to be treated as such; however, you can make your life happier simply by trying to see the humor in many of life's challenging situations.

Humor is healthy. Learning to laugh at your human frailties and less-than-perfect attempts at everyday life is a healthy practice that's well worth developing.

The next time you make some small mistake, instead of berating yourself and calling yourself stupid, try making light of it. Say something like, "Isn't that funny how I have trouble with computers. I'm sure I can learn to do it with a little practice." Not being a technology wizard isn't usually a life-threatening issue.

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Make an effort to see the humor in everyday occurrences and you will begin feeling better about yourself and your work. Lighten up and laugh a little. One of the reasons angels can fly is that they take themselves lightly.


Shortly after the end of World War II, General Douglas McArthur requested that a man named W. Edwards Demming come to Japan to help rebuild that war-torn country. Demming had developed a system called Total Quality Management or TQM.

When the Japanese business leaders met with Dr. Demming and asked him what he thought they could do to restore their economy, his answer was that they should strive to "make small, incremental improvements daily in every area of their lives and their business." The Japanese word for this is Kaizen and it is responsible for the fact that, today, Japan is a world power and economic leader. In Japan there is an award given to the business who has demonstrated the greatest improvement in a given year. It's the "Demming Award."

It's interesting to note that it was not until many years later that Dr. Demming's work was recognized in the United States. His TQM principles are now used by many successful US corporations, including the Ford Motor Company and the Department of the Navy.

You can practice kaizen in your daily life, too. It's a simple concept that, over time, will produce awesome results. I challenge you to practice this idea for 30 days and see for yourself the amazing results.


For the next 30 days, strive to make small incremental improvements in every area of your life. Each day, begin by asking yourself the following:

  • How can I improve my relationship with my spouse and family?

  • How might I improve my health?

  • What can I do today to improve my value to my company?

  • How can I improve my sense of enjoyment and pleasure?

  • What else can I improve today?

I'm not asking you to make major changes or to add stress to your life. I'm simply suggesting that you look at your life and your daily activities and see what small actions you can take -- today -- that will make your life happier and more joyful. Keep in mind that "progress, not perfection" is what life's all about.


Sarah is a successful real estate/mortgage industry professional who came to me when she was in the process of finding a new position. While she loved her job and made a very high six-figure income, her company was merging. As we were working on her game plan to stay in the same field, her company went bankrupt. She was shocked and scared and wanted to take the first job that came along.

I encouraged her to recognize that she had expectations of her employers and when she interviewed to put her interests first rather than selling them on her. I told her to hire her own employer and to be choosy. We came up with strategies for her to know what she wanted from an employer and she went on interviews with this intent.

One of her new-found items is she doesn't want to work past 7:00 p.m. in the evening or on weekends. She communicated this in her interviews. She also wanted to go to her child's class trips and plays and wanted the flexibility to do so. She was scared this would prevent her from finding a job. Instead, much to her surprise, she received four offers and had to decide which she wanted.

She now spends weekends with her child and evenings at the gym, movies, or with friends. Her life is filled with good music, friends -- an environment she loves to live in. She let go of working on weekends and takes a break from voice mail and email, to allow herself an escape from work, for one 24-hour period each weekend.

She has had the most successful year of her working life in terms of salary and career satisfaction while living her life on her own terms, earning the highest pay for less time worked.


Tom is the manager of the local branch of a national retail chain who came to me having just been put on probation. He feared losing his job and was miserable. He was overworked, stressed, and he had a poor attitude because of his co-workers and his manager. I requested that before he look for another job, he restructure his present job with strong boundaries so that his employees are solving problems, doing their own work and being accountable. I helped him to train them in the skills they lacked and taught him to delegate so that he had less work and wasn't putting in all those crazy hours.

Even after following my suggestions, he still decided he wanted out of this job because he wasn't enjoying being in management or working for the company. He began a career search around the hobbies he loved and decided the money was not as important as his health and well-being.

He found that he could get a job at a lower salary in a field he liked and he decided to accept this offer. The company was one he felt good about working for and he would have no management responsibility. The starting salary is lower but his wife decided to take on a bit more work to compensate. Now the stress is gone and I hear him laughing more, looking better and sounding lighter!


This Director of Nursing says she wanted to get away from being indoors all day and working late hours. She thinks she wants to be a consultant. She is struggling with this because she feels she can't give up her job security. I encouraged her to speak with her current employer about going from employee to consultant. She did this and the employer agreed. Now she works less hours for more money and sets her schedule around walking every morning and evening. She is always home by 4:00 p.m. and is expanding her personal relationships outside work because she finally has time to do this.

She knew just what she wanted to do but couldn't see how to make it happen. She thought her idea was a dream and that her employer would fire her but when she finally got the courage to express her desire, he honored it and she is now working the way she envisioned.


If there's one area you must learn to handle if you are to have a happier life at work or otherwise, it's stress. Extreme levels of negative stress can kill you. I say negative stress because a certain amount of stress is necessary. The only people who have no stress in their lives are six feet under the earth. Stress is what gets us going. A certain amount of pressure is healthy and can bring out the best in people.

The problem is that our present-day society has taken stress to dangerous levels. Our fast-paced lives, job pressures, the environment, our usually less than ideal diet and lifestyles, all lead to an excess of stressors in most of us.

If you want to learn to live and work yourself happy, you must find ways to cope with the stress in your life. Meditation, hobbies, exercise, yoga, nature walks, friends, family and even our pets can help us manage our daily stress. A visit to your local bookstore will provide you with many books dealing with stress in great detail. Also, your local adult education center most likely has a class or two on managing stress. Select activities that work for you. We are all different and what works for me may not be ideal for you.


* Get up 15 minutes earlier every morning so you can relax before leaving the house.

* Exercise daily to unwind.

* Make a habit of taking long, deep breaths regularly.

* Eliminate the words "ought" and "should" from your vocabulary and make your goals things you really want to do.

* Skip the daily news -- it's full of negative events.

* Drive slowly and listen to music while you drive.

* Meditate or sit quietly for a few minutes every day.

* Schedule plenty of time between appointments so you don't feel rushed.


The regular practice of meditation has been shown to be significant in decreasing stress. This is not something that needs to be complicated. Just sit quietly and watch your thoughts. Try not to get caught up in your thinking but instead just become the silent observer. If you want, you can observe your breathing as it goes in and out. Just sit quietly and let go of your thoughts. With regular practice, you will soon sense the "chatter" in your mind subsiding and begin to feel calmer. This feeling will stay with you as you go on with your daily activities.

Some people prefer to take a class to learn a specific technique. If this appeals to you, go for it. Also, you may want to play peaceful music during your periods of quiet reflection. Experiment with different techniques until you find what works for you. An investment of twenty minutes a day in quiet time will pay you back in renewed energy and sense of wellness.


We all have the very same twenty four hours in a day, yet some people are able to accomplish an enormous number of tasks while others never seem to have enough time. Why do some people seem to have more time than others?

The answer is very simple. They manage their time better. Now, I like being spontaneous as much as the next person, however, it is important to employ some system of time-management if you want to feel more in control of your life and get more done.

Organizing your time is a sure way to feel as though you have more of it. While there are numerous time-management books, tapes and seminars, one of the simplest productivity techniques I ever learned is the following:

  • List the five most important things you have to do and do nothing else until you complete them.

I realize that this sounds overly simple in our exceedingly complicated world, but before you dismiss it, try it out for two weeks. This simple technique, which has been used by high-level executives, entrepreneurs, and others for more than fifty years, works.

One of the keys is that by listing five items instead of ten or twenty, you are really focusing your energy on what is truly important. If you eliminate distractions and do only the five items on your list, you will be directing your energy in the most productive direction. Rather than waste your valuable time doing busy work, you will be doing what really matters to your success. Of course, if you complete your list early, write another one, or do other less important tasks.


What do you say to yourself on a regular basis? Do you praise yourself for a job well-done and accept your errors as just being human or do you have a habit of putting yourself down for every little thing?

It saddens me when I see so many people telling themselves they're "dumb" or "stupid" or in some other way, putting themselves down. This is one of the most destructive things you can do and it will undermine your success.

We are only human. We will make mistakes and, yes, some of us will have a hard time adapting to new technology or learning to play golf or whatever it is we personally find difficult. This does not make us less intelligent than the rest of the people. We all make mistakes.

Learn to allow yourself errors. Try not to be so hard on yourself and those around you. Your self-talk, that mental chatter that goes on all day long, has a lot to do with your level of achievement. Your subconscious mind does not know the difference between real and imaginary. It will believe and act upon whatever commands you give it.


Transformational vocabulary is simply a fancy term for a concept that was studied several years ago and reported in Time magazine. It means transforming the words you use to describe your experience of any given situation or emotion.

If you want to feel better, use words that amplify your good feelings. For example, if someone asks how you are, instead of saying fine or ok, try saying great or terrific. This simple change in your choice of wording will change the way you feel.

In contrast, if you want to feel less poorly about an undesirable occurrence, reduce the impact of the words you use. Rather than saying something like, "I hate my job," change the wording to minimize their impact. You might say, "I'm not really fond of my job." While it expresses the same dislike for the job, the emotional impact is much less, resulting in your feeling better about the situation.

By reducing the impact of the words we use to describe unpleasant situations and enhancing the intensity of those we use to describe pleasant feelings or situations, you will begin to feel better and happier about your life.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Lahaska Press. ©2000.

Article Source

Work Yourself Happy
by Terry Levine.

Work Yourself Happy by Terry LevineWork Yourself Happy is a step by step guide to creating joy in your life and work. It offers insights, experiences, fears and successes as a road map to moving towards what people want and need to be happy in their working lives. Whatever the readers' situation, Work Yourself Happy will help them uncover their deepest desires, help them tap into the courage they'll need to face their fears and provide them with ideas and techniques they can use to begin creating a life they'll love.

Info/Order this book.

About the Author

Terri LevineTerri Levine is the founder of Heart-repreneur® and is a business and executive coaching expert. She assists businesses worldwide with business growth, sales, and marketing. She has more than 40 years of business experience, encompassing work with more than 5,000 business owners and entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. She is also a bestselling author of dozens of books, has her own radio and TV show and is also a keynote speaker. Visit her website at https://heartrepreneur.com/

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Video/Presentation with Terri Levine: Start Living a Delicious Lifestyle


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